The 2018/19 Champions League ended this month in Madrid but discussions around the future of European competitions continue to increase across the continent. Considering the damage that proposed reforms would have on domestic competitions, LaLiga President Javier Tebas has called the current model of football governance into question.
At the close of its latest meeting in Malta, the European Club Association (ECA) reaffirmed it wants to redevelop the European Club Competitions (UCC), with proposals including a restricted-entry Champions League that would provide guaranteed access for 75% of its participants – regardless of their domestic league position.
The changes could drastically increase the European football calendar, putting a strain on domestic competitions, while threatening to block access to the top level of European competition for all but the privileged minority. Domestic leagues would, in effect, be relegated to a fourth tier in European football, suffering severe consequences as a result.
Football for an elite few, or #Football4All?— LaLiga (@LaLigaEN) May 30, 2019
How plans drawn up by ECA/UEFA put domestic football, and the sustainability of European competition, at risk. #SupportYourLeague pic.twitter.com/Y98EfTCzEe
To provide further context on the issue, Tebas met with over 50 international journalists in Madrid, answering questions for over an hour about how the reforms would affect European leagues and how LaLiga is responding.
“The changes being proposed by UEFA are lethal for professional football in Europe and for all of the domestic leagues, both big and small,” the LaLiga President said.
“It will mean only the largest clubs will take part in a closed competition and more money is transferred from the national leagues to these elite clubs.
“From a financial point of view, it’s going to kill off the TV rights of all domestic leagues and little by little the elite clubs will stop caring about national competitions because it will no longer be the first step to accessing European competition.”
Regarding the specific impact that could be seen domestically, Tebas referred to an independent report by auditing firm KPMG which has projected that Spanish football’s contribution to national GDP would decrease from 1.37% to 0.925% after just one year and that as many as 50,000 football-related jobs could be lost.
While these numbers are specific to Spain, the impact would be similar in nations across Europe.
Change of governance
Regarding how to counter such proposals, Tebas proposed a fundamental change in how plans are being made. It shouldn´t just be the top clubs as part of ECA.
“The industry must be much more balanced with a better restructuring of the money that flows through Europe from TV rights,” he said.
“Furthermore, there has to be a change of governance in football. There needs to be a much greater role for domestic leagues. Changes need to be based on collective agreement by all parties because these affect the national industries of football.”
“We have to sit down on a European level to work out how competitions can share money in a fairer way among all competitions. What UEFA and ECA are doing is completely the opposite.”
Spanish clubs question ECA membership
In keeping with this, a letter from seven Spanish clubs was issued this month to the leaders of ECA, raising grave concerns on the “frontal attack to the competitive balance and to the stability of domestic competitions” that the current proposals raised.
The clubs, seven of nine Spanish ECA members, said: “We are very concerned about the way these drastic changes are being proposed. The lack of transparency, with negotiations led by a few that have become representatives of European clubs, leads to many of us no longer feeling represented by the Executive Board of ECA.
Proof of this is that the new model has not been shown to us at any time, we have only been made aware of it by third parties.”
Signed by Athletic Club, Atletico de Madrid, Sevilla FC, Real Sociedad, Valencia CF, Villarreal CF and Malaga CF, the letter concludes: “If these concerns are not considered or resolved, we may have to question our ECA membership.”
Time for pan-European dialogue
“Without a doubt, the new competition would be detrimental in all countries,” Tebas added. “Money will go to the league champions and the big clubs across Europe.
This will cause an even greater distortion that will affect the importance of national competitions. In eight to nine years our competitions will be nothing like we see today.”
"All the actors of European football – the clubs, leagues and players - have to sit down to decide what to do,” Tebas concluded. “Never before has football been in as much danger as it is now.”